Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Anti-Digital Mind: A Stressful Mind

Keeping a clear head and providing rational strategies to diffuse the situation is a common sense recommendation.
“A stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism." Often the stress situations contains a high "charge" of emotions, and normally added by different emotional acts of different actors, which turns a problem to an uncontrolled blocked situation. The interesting thing about stress is that you may or may not know when it is coming or to what degree. So the challenge would be how you can stay cool and and remain control?

The first thing to do is to understand what exactly is causing you stress. To mentally step out of the situation and observe what is going on and what is triggering stress. When you are in the middle of the chaos, it is hard to see the many ways out. Somehow, you must get some distance from the problem that is causing the stress. Do what it takes to gain some distance and perspective to understand the root causes of stress. If you are spiraling because of the stress, you only add power to the chaos. Coincidentally, a crisis is when we are challenged by an event/incident that exceeds our resources to mitigate the crisis. In a way, a crisis is an opportunity to learn, identify and utilize resources that you might not have otherwise noticed.

You can't respond to situations successfully if you don't know yourself. The most important skill is to know that we create our own stress. The 'stress' does not come from outside us, whatever the situation. It comes from inside us, from the way we often unconsciously interpret the situation. So the most important skill is to know this, and to know how to remove our (self-created) stress, before then moving to address whatever the specifics of the situation are, and whatever skills are then needed to address those specifics. It means that you have to understand how you react and why, know your limitations, and know who to call to add to the team or the situation; you have had to learn to compartmentalize issues as they arise and not jumble them up into one big reactionary battle. You have to learn to keep focused and stay calm.

You have to be able to look for the objectivity of the problem, deflating the emotions or part of it. This way, you will be able to act and share a reasonable solution, unblocking the different emotions of surroundings. Assessing situation, defining immediate priorities and longer term priorities, engaging others to do a task or run with an activity, and very importantly, be able to assess and realign priorities as needed. All that is enveloped in communicating clearly - defining what you know, what you don't know, and what direction is being taken with the information that is known at the time with the intent to reassess frequently. If you're making any decisions, there are two things you need in a critical and fast moving environment: regulation of your emotions and trust in your intuition. If you don't regulate your emotions; if you default to being in fear mode,  then your cognitive functions run impaired. It's part of being human. If you don't trust in your intuition, you'll procrastinate or panic, neither of which are that helpful when decisions have to be made. The more decisions you make in unfamiliar environments, the more of an inventory you have available to you in the milliseconds available to make a decision. Critical in this context means high stakes, fast moving, not enough data, and the need to take fast action.

The key in any stress situation is to remain in control. Perspective, would seem to be a key ingredient in preventing this kind of outbreak. That perspective comes from being aware of our surroundings and asking the hard questions during more peaceful times when there are more resources and conversations that we can have at a normal pace and volume. If you are in a leadership position, people will be looking to you not only for direction and guidance, but to see how you are reacting. Keep in mind, actions speak louder than words. Your people will know if you are in control or if you are faking it. Knowing when you need to draw on other's expertise is key. As a leader you don't need to know it all. The challenge needs to be managed well when new information becomes available. Bring clarity and focus to a situation about what is being done or not done. Ending with clear expectation of when next checkpoint is gives people confidence that the situation is being handled while circumstances can often change quickly. You may not have all of the answers, but you can remain resilient and confident that your actions will be in the best interest of those involved.

Remaining a calm exterior, no matter how panicked you may be inside, is a massive leadership skill. Fear and how we all deal with fear is a major contributor in how we manage our stress. The most common theme  is to stay calm and in control, and how we arrive at and maintain that state of calmness seems to be the critical link in preventing an outbreak of panic. Keeping a clear head and providing rational strategies to diffuse the situation is a common sense recommendation, keeping a "sense of humor" not at the situation but about yourself in the situation helps tremendously.



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